In a previous Insights post we wrote about the importance of really understanding your clients and knowing how they feel about your business. We referenced "the ideal client" a few times in that post and we felt it would be useful to explore that concept in more detail.
"Anyone with a pulse"
That's the light-hearted reply from some business owners when asked to describe their ideal client. At least it starts out as a light-hearted response but frequently turns out to be pretty close to reality.
Many businesses have no real clarity about what makes a client ideal for them. Which is a shame because there's real benefits that come from profiling your ideal client, which we'll cover later.
But before that...
How do I create an ideal client profile?
In building your ideal client profile, your intent is to identify the characteristics shared by clients and prospective clients who:
love what you do and will buy the right products or services from you at the right price; and
love why you do what you do. In other words your business purpose resonates with them and creates an emotional connection which is fundamental to customer engagement.
As a first step, have a critical look into your existing client base to identify your very best clients. Once you know who they are, you'll begin to see some shared characteristics...not just demographic, but behavioural as well.
Here are some questions to think about:
Why did your best clients choose you over other providers?
Why do they continue to deal with you?
What specific demographics do they share (age, gender, income range, education levels)?
What shared personal values can you identify? How strongly do these clients connect with your business purpose?
How do your best clients go about making purchase decisions?
Where to they go for all the information they need to make those decisions? How do they consume information?
It's quite possible you might not know the answer to one or two of these questions. That's ok because it's easy to find the answers....all you need to do is ask your clients.
You might consider gathering this information as part of a regular client survey or separately by phone or email. Either way, it's a great way to engage with your clients and when you explain why you're asking they'll be pleased to know you consider them to be among your "favourites".
As you build your profile, also think about whether the picture you're painting is of a client you and your employees actually enjoy working with. The reality is some clients are just too difficult to deal with and can take up a disproportionate amount of time. It's ok to not work with clients who make your life a misery.
Make sure you document the profile you create.
Writing it down makes it real.
Communicate, communicate, communicate...
Who needs to be across your ideal client profile?
First up, everyone in your business from top to bottom. All your employees are ambassadors for your business and through their interactions in the community are perfectly placed to create interest in your products and services among prospective clients. You might even consider some form of recognition program for employees who introduce clients into the business who match the ideal profile.
Discussions about your ideal client should also form part of your recruitment process. You need to be clear with potential employees about the type of clients you work with. This opens up a discussion about how the prospective recruit's skills, abilities and attitudes might match up with what's required to service your ideal clients.
It may well lead to some recruits self-selecting out of the process, but that's a positive.
Your employees have a direct impact on client satisfaction and engagement so it's important to get recruitment right.
Your clients also need to know about who you ideally want to provide your products and services to. Existing clients are a great potential source of new business through word of mouth recommendations. So they really should know what you're looking for. Let them know through the interactions you already have with them. For example, a simple "...we really enjoy working with you because...." is a great way to open up that conversation.
Finally, if you have referral arrangements in place with other businesses, make sure they're aware of your ideal client profile. It makes it easier for them to refer the right people to your business and it reduces the risk of you providing a disappointing outcome for the referrer and the client.
Why is this so important?
Knowing with a high degree of accuracy the characteristics of your ideal client brings plenty of benefits to your business. Here's just a few:
it makes finding new clients a whole lot easier - no matter how you market your business, when you know who you're targeting you can create some very specific messaging. And that's likely to result in a higher strike rate, improving the return on your marketing investment). You're also more likely to know where your ideal clients hang out, what media they enjoy (traditional and social) and how they like to consume information all of which allows you to further focus your marketing efforts;
your ideal clients are more likely to become repeat purchasers - almost by definition, a client who's ideal for your business will enjoy dealing with you and is unlikely to look to alternative suppliers for future purchases;
product/service offers are simplified - with a high proportion of people in your client base who look similar and behave in much the same way you'll not constantly be tweaking products and services to meet individual requirements. It might happen from time to time but it won't be anywhere near on the same scale as if you adopt the "anyone with a pulse" approach;
it can reduce the cost of ongoing client servicing - for largely the same reasons we just touched on in the point above;
referrals/word of mouth recommendations become more effective - the ideal client profile brings much needed clarity and consistency to this process;
it's easier to say "no" - let's be honest...if you look into your existing client base there's some you'd rather not have to deal with. With a clear ideal client profile, you can more readily avoid that because a) your client acquisition is targeted away from "problem clients" and b) if one or two slip through the net you feel more comfortable letting them know your offer is probably not for them; and
it makes your business more valuable - put simply, if you realise all the other benefits of being clear about your ideal client profile, you'll make your business more valuable.
So there you have it
Your products and services aren't ideal for every consumer. Going right back to its roots, your business was established with a clear target market and target client in mind. Perhaps somewhere along the line that focus has gone missing.
But wouldn't business be so much more enjoyable with more clients you and your employees like dealing with?
Wouldn't those clients be more engaged?
Wouldn't they be more in tune with your business purpose?
And wouldn't that lead to more sustainable growth?
In case you're wondering, the answer to each of these questions is a resounding "yes"!
If this Insight has given you food for thought, you're probably keen to take advantage of the positive impact engaged clients have on sustainable growth. And that starts with clarity about your ideal client profile. That's where GrowthCatalyst can help.
We invite you to contact us to arrange a conversation, face-to-face or virtual.
Alternatively, you can book a time for an initial discussion here.
How sustainable is your business growth?
If you're keen for some immediate feedback on how sustainable your business growth might be over the longer term, please follow the link to our "Sustainable Business Growth Health Check".
It'll take you no longer than three minutes to complete and you'll get your results instantly.
Why not subscribe?
If you want to make sure you never miss an update from us, please provide your details on our Insights page. We'll add you to our list!